The leaves of this cruciferous vegetable give off a garlic smell when crushed. The widespread plant was once popular as an aromatic herb and medicinal plant. It was used to expel urine and loosen mucus, for example when coughing with sputum. The plant was also used as a natural remedy against worms and insect bites.
Table of contents
- Garlic Mustard – An Overview
- How does garlic mustard work?
- Garlic mustard in the kitchen
- Home remedy: Vinegar made from summer garlic
- Alliaria pertiolata is our oldest spice
- Where does garlic mustard grow?
- Planting and caring for summer garlic
- Scientific name: Alliaria petiolata
- Common names: summer garlic, garlic herb, leek herb, garlic shederich, leek hederich
- Family: Cruciferous family, brassica family (Brassicaceae)
- Distribution: Europe, North Africa, Near and Central Asia east to China and south to India, as a neophyte in America
- Plant parts used: The herb
- Ingredients: Mustard oil glycosides (organic nitriles and various sulfur compounds as degradation products), essential oil with diallyl disulfide and various dithiine compounds, phytol, palmitic acid, nonanal, phenylacetaldehyde, benzaldehyde and other sulfur-free substances, as well as vitamins A and C, saponins (soap substances), minerals and Trace elements
- Areas of application: Cough/phlegm, asthma, bronchitis, colds and sinusitis, skin infections, insect bites, worm infestations, as a diuretic and for blood purification and general strengthening in case of spring fatigue (traditional)
Garlic Mustard – An Overview
- Garlic mustard is being rediscovered today and used in the kitchen in a similar way to wild garlic. However, the flavors evaporate more quickly than with this one.
- Garlic mustard was popular as a herb in the Middle Ages, but became unpopular when spices became more affordable.
- Garlic mustard is a valuable nutrient plant for endangered insects and their caterpillars. At least 69 species of insects use them as food.
- The plant grows in sparse deciduous forests, gardens, parks and hedges and is a nitrogen indicator.
- Garlic mustard loves nutrient-rich soil in the shade or partial shade and can be easily grown on the balcony, terrace and in the garden.
- Like other plants in the cabbage family, such as radish, horseradish, broccoli and mustard, garlic mustard contains sulfur and nitrogen-containing mustard oil glycosides, which provide a pungent taste.
- The leaves of summer garlic are reminiscent of small, rounded leaves of nettle and even more so of the lesser-known Gundermann. The best identifying signs are indentations on the leaf stem and the smell of garlic when crushed.
Garlic mustard has a pungent taste, which is mainly due to the mustard oil glycoside sinigrin. As with other plants in the cabbage family, for example radish, horseradish, broccoli or mustard, these are compounds that contain sulfur.
A 2008 study found organic nitriles and sulfur compounds, which are released when sinigrin glucosinolates are broken down, to be the essential substances in garlic mustard. These include allyl isothiocyanate as the most concentrated substance.
Diallyl disulfide and various dithiine compounds, which are formed when cysteine sulfoxide is broken down, were found in the plant’s oil. According to the study, the oil also contains phytol, palmitic acid, nonanal, phenylacetaldehyde, benzaldehyde and other sulfur-free substances. Isolated aglycones included 2-phenylethanol, eugenol, benzyl alcohol, methyl salicylate and butane-2,3-diol.
The plant also contains saponins, vitamins A and C as well as minerals and trace elements.
How does garlic mustard work?
Saponins, such as those present in the plant, have an anti-inflammatory effect, fight bacteria and fungi and also have a blood pressure-increasing and immune-modulating effect. Cholesterol-lowering effects are also known.
Mustard oil glycosides sometimes have a strong effect against pathogenic microbes. They are so-called prodrugs that only take effect after they have been metabolized. During digestion, the glycosides are converted into active substances such as thiocyanates, isothiocyanates and sulforaphane. Plants containing mustard glycosides have therefore traditionally been recommended to help the stomach and intestines digest. Mustard oils are also said to have an anti-constipation effect.
Garlic mustard has been used in folk and historical medicine to accelerate the healing of skin wounds, to treat respiratory diseases associated with mucous coughs such as bronchitis or colds.
The medicinal plant was also used to cleanse the blood and promote blood circulation. These applications were based primarily on the saponins and mustard oil glycosides they contained.
However, the studies on the effects are limited. There are studies on the biochemistry of garlic mustard that go back to the 19th century. A 2016 review by biologist Don Cipollini also looked at the effects on other plants and microbes in the environment, but no consideration of the effects in the human organism was carried out.
Garlic mustard is a traditional home remedy for coughs and colds, as well as an herb that is now being used more in the kitchen. (Image: Annett Seidler/stock.adobe.com/own editing heilpraxis.de)
Garlic mustard in the kitchen
Garlic mustard was used as a culinary herb as well as a medicinal plant – like related brassicas, it served as both at the same time. The health effects of the vital substances develop when consumed and during digestion.
All parts of the plant are edible; the herb, i.e. the above-ground parts, is usually used. These taste slightly of garlic, but at the same time mild and intense.
The seeds are spicy, were processed like mustard and were used as a substitute for pepper in times when the latter was a luxury item. The green, unripe seeds were also used fresh for this purpose.
The herb can be added to salads, processed into spreads, quark and cream cheese or added to soups and sauces. You can use it to prepare pesto, add that certain something to mashed potatoes and potato salad, or add the herb to smoothies. The flowers can also be used to decorate salads.
The herb can be used to make an excellent oil. The volatile aromatic substances are retained. To make such an oil, leave about a handful of the herb in a sealed container with around 500 milliliters of vegetable oil for a week or 14 days. Then pour off the oil. You can use it to sauté or use it in salad dressings and dips.
The following applies to all uses in the kitchen: you should use the garlic rocket raw. The pungent leek flavor disappears when cooked because heating destroys the aromatics. You make salads, pestos or smoothies from raw plants anyway.
If you use garlic mustard in soups or sauces, add the herb at the end of cooking and let it steep in the warm dish. For fried potatoes, you can finely chop raw leaves of the plant, sprinkle them on the finished potatoes and let them steep in the fat for a few minutes.
Home remedy: Vinegar made from summer garlic
A home remedy to strengthen the body and especially to overcome spring fatigue is a vinegar prepared from the herb. To do this, dig up a whole plant, ideally when it is about to flower, because then it contains the most vital substances.
You clean the herb thoroughly, then put it in a container and pour apple cider vinegar over it. You let everything steep for two weeks and then strain it. Two tablespoons of vinegar in a glass of water are recommended to strengthen the body. Three glasses are considered a daily ration. You can also add the vinegar to salad dressings.
Alliaria pertiolata is our oldest spice
The so-called leek herb was demonstrably used in what is now Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark 6,000 years ago, i.e. in the Stone Age. This is proven by evidence of the plant in clay pots that were found near Neustadt in Holstein. This makes garlic mustard the oldest known herb in this country.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, garlic mustard was part of the folk cuisine. The plant was widespread in the semi-shady forests in temperate areas and was therefore an ideal substitute for the very expensive spices that reached the north of the Alps on long routes from the Middle and Far East via Constantinople and Venice. Garlic mustard was even grown in kitchen gardens in what is now Central Europe and England in the late Middle Ages.
In England, leeks were called “Jack-by-the hedge” after a word coined by the cookbook writer John Evelyn in 1669. “Jack” is a synonym for “jack of all trades”, i.e. ubiquity. Evelyn also mentioned that the plant is very healthy and is prepared as a salad.
Where does garlic mustard grow?
Garlic mustards do not like full sun, but thrive in partial and full shade. They like the soil to be permeable with organic material that stores moisture and provides nutrients – like in a mixed forest. Summer garlic also finds such conditions on the hedges of the traditional cultivated landscape of Central Europe and also feels at home in gardens.
The best location is under old trees, between bushes or at the edge of the hedge. If you want to grow garlic mustard in a pot, it is better to use potting soil with compost rather than special herb soil, as the latter usually contains too few nutrients.
Planting and caring for summer garlic
You can sow either between March and April or from mid to late October. March is best. It is best to sow in seed trays directly on the balcony or outdoors, and not in the sun. You should not grow the seeds indoors because garlic mustard is a cold germinator and…